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‘5-minute walk’ Sohar Smart City master plan revealed

4 May 2024 ‘5-minute walk’ Sohar Smart City Master plan revealed By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – A master plan for the establishment of Sohar Smart City has been released by global architecture and design studio Hassell.

It was appointed by Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning to design a master plan that will position Sohar as a centre of trade, commerce and innovation by 2040.

Part of the broader Sohar Master Plan, the new city will capitalise on the economic growth resulting from the free port and arrival of an international rail link to Abu Dhabi. It will include over 19,000 new homes and 520,000sqm of office space, besides schools, mosques, hospitals and a new commuter railway station.

Creating thriving local neighbourhoods and communities, 30% of the new city features public parks and open land, promoting wellbeing of Sohar residents, and a green network of car-free nature corridors, fostering biodiversity within the city.

Ashley Munday, Principal and Head of Design at Hassell, said, “One of the biggest challenges we confronted during the briefing stage of the new city was its reliance on vehicles, a consequence of both the desert climate and limited public transport. To increase micro-mobility in residential areas, we applied a ‘five-minute city’ principle to establish and grow a network of connected communities anchored around amenity clusters, each within a five-minute walk of where residents live and work.

“These clusters provide greater convenience towards local commerce, support flourishing neighbourhoods and eliminate the need to drive shorter journeys (even in extreme temperatures). The neighbourhood centres will include community services, shops and restaurants all accessible on foot, alongside deliberately unprogrammed spaces that sow the seeds for neighbourhoods to develop their own character over time – allowing Sohar residents to be at the forefront of their city’s future design.”

In addition to local neighbourhoods, a car-free network of ‘nature corridors’ running from north to south and east to west will transform walkability of the city centre, creating super-highways that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, featuring green infrastructure that will generate habitat for local wildlife and biodiversity.

The master plan encompasses over 700 hectares of former agricultural land and will support widespread future population growth in the region making Sohar an important international gateway.

In response to the national spatial strategy developed by the Omani government and included in the design brief, the framework envisions a new future for the city as the centre of trade, commerce and innovation within the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, Hassell stated.

The new city will be clustered around two district parks that create view corridors to the existing Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. The new parks will hold civic and cultural functions in a new opera house, museum and library as well as a Wadi Museum. ‘While the proposed city as a whole will offer numerous arts and education opportunities for local communities, the master plan also aims to attract international business and innovation to establish the city’s place as a ‘new front door’ to the world. This initiative will complement the considerable transport and logistics infrastructure already in place.’

Sustainability is at the heart of this new city framework, which is responsive to the needs of shifting climates, natural resources and socio-economic parameters. Informed by both traditional values and contemporary lifestyle choices, the new city aims to fulfil the needs of residents, visitors and tourists through an appropriate sustainable lens. The master plan introduces bio-diversity and nature back into the fabric of the city and is underpinned by carefully curated planting, irrigation and water recycling strategies.

With phased construction planned over the next two decades, the city in Sohar Master Plan suggests 2040 as its earliest completion date.

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